The boy’s eyes fluttered open. He lay there for a few seconds, slowly absorbing his surroundings. There wasn’t much to look at.
The sit was located in an abandoned parking garage. The building had been boarded up years ago, and that suited me just fine. I’d found a reasonably dry corner on the fourth floor, and tried to make it as “cosy” as I could with a combination of cardboard boxes, stolen blankets and other odds and ends scrounged from the streets and alleys of Chicago. A battery-powered lantern provided illumination. It wasn’t much, but for me it was home.
The boy coughed.
“If this is heaven, it’s one hell of a let down”, he whispered in a gravelly rasp.
“You should be so lucky kid.” I handed him a plastic water bottle, and he sucked on it greedily. Sating his thirst, he slumped back on the battered mattress. He was silent for a long time. I waited.
“I was gone, wasn’t I? Dying I mean.”
There was no way to sugar coat it.
“Yeah. You were.”
“And you… somehow you… Trevor wasn’t it?”
“Good memory! I thought you were right out of it at the time.”
The kid started to check himself over. He felt something on his neck.
Yeah, the fang marks. They tend to last. This could be awkward.
“So… um, yeah… I’m not sure there’s an easy way to say this… You see, um, well the only way I could… To save you I mean I had to…” Someone needed to write a god damned manual on what to say in these situations. I took a deep breath and tried again. “In order to…. ah fuck it!”
I showed him.
I showed him the fangs.
“You’re kidding right? Fangs?!” He shook his head in disbelief. “What are you, some kind of vampire?”
“Well as far as I know there’s only one kind of vampire.”
“Stop pulling my leg. You… you’re telling me you’re a vampire? Honest to god, blood sucking vampire?”
He reached forward and touched the fangs, expecting to find cheap plastic. His hand whipped back in pain.
“Fuck! Those are sharp!”
He looked at his finger, where a drop of blood was welling up, then at fangs. His heads swivelled back and forth between finger and fangs several times. His smile faded. It was replaced by another look. A look I knew all too well.
“Fuck,” he whispered, “fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!” He scrambled backwards deeper into the sit until he was hunched against a wall.
“Are you…. are you going to… are you going to kill me?”
“KILL YOU?!” My laugh startled him as much as my fangs had. “After I went to all that trouble to save your life in the first place? Trust me, the last six weeks watching over you, waiting for you to wake up have been the most boring nights of my life.”
“Yeah… um… the process usually takes a while…”
“Ummmm…. there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you have a whole new lease of life. After a fashion. The bad news… well there’s really no easy way to say this. You’re a vampire too now.”
The kid felt the fang marks on neck again.
His shout echoed around the car park.
“Okay… I think… I just need a second here… center my chi a bit, you know?” He took some deep breaths. “So, I’m a vampire. A real… vampire.”
He shook his head.
“Think Jamie, think! What do you know about vampires?” He looked at me. “Sunlight?”
“I recommend avoiding it. Strongly recommend avoiding it.”
“Stakes through the heart?”
“At least sunlight will kill you fast. Stakes through the heart kill you very very slowly.”
“I don’t find the aroma particularly pleasant but it won’t hurt you.”
“Only to Muslim vampires, and it just tends to make them mad.”
“They’ll trap you into talking theology for hours. They’re terrifyingly reasonable and relentlessly persistent.”
“There are Muslim vampires?”
“Naturally. Some leave their religion behind when they cross over, while for others it simply reinforces their faith. The rituals have to be adjusted a bit of course, but they practice their religion just the same.”
“That’s so… radical.”
He shook his head again. A whole new world was opening up for him.
“Your name is Jamie?”
“Yeah, Jamie Smith.”
A sudden thought occurred to me.
“Have you got any parents or anything?”
His face fell.
“No. No parents.” His expression read “don’t ask”. I backed off, breathing a silent sigh of relief that I hadn’t permanent wrecked a perfectly happy family.
“Do you want to take a short walk? Stretch the legs a bit? You have been doing nothing for six weeks after all.”
We stood on the roof of the car park, leaning against the railing, looking out at the Chicago skyline. Jamie turned to me.
“I don’t know why, but its kind of.. peaceful up here. As if we’re… somehow above it all. I think I spent so much time focused on what was at my feet I never really took the time to look up.”
I grinned at Jamie. “You’re deeper than you look.”
“Am not!” he retorted, “I’m just as shallow as the next teenager.”
“But you’re right. It is peaceful. Every single one of those buildings is filled with people. And every single one of those people has somewhere to go, or something to do, or something they need. They’re driven all the time, for every day of our lives. And for us… none of those things matters any more.”
“I think I like it best in winter. When the snow covers everything… you can imagine its a whole new world. A better world.”
We stood in silence for a couple of minutes.
“Vampires… we live on blood don’t we?”
“Yeah, yeah we do. Living blood. Living human blood.”
“No loopholes? No escape clauses?”
“There are temporary options but… you’re only delaying the inevitable. To live – you have to kill.”
I wrapped my arm around Jamie.
“You’ve got time. You’re still living on your original blood. We’ll hang out around the sit for another couple of days, let you recover more. First I’ll show you round. Then when you’re ready… we’ll hunt.”
I could feel the numbness overtaking my body as it sank into its daytime hibernation cycle. In those last seconds of consciousness, I thought I felt two small arms wrap around me and hug me close.
“I can’t believe you have so many books!”
Jamie had discovered my guilty pleasure. I hadn’t really hid them well. Scavenged bookcases lined the walls of the sit, filled with paperbacks rescued from wherever I could find them.
“I’ll tell you a secret. Before…. this, I wanted to be a writer. I planned to be a best selling novelist, famous all over the world.”
“Do Vampires write?”
“Many do. Scriptures they call them… vampires tend to favour autobiography over fiction. You’d be amazed how many vampires end up thinking the most fascinating thing in the universe is them.”
“Not for you then?”
I grinned. “Not yet. I don’t think I’m that interesting.”
Jamie grinned. “I think you’re interesting. After all you’re the first live vampire I’ve ever met.”
I couldn’t resist tickling Jamie. He collapsed in laughter.
“No fair! You’re playing dirty!”
“That I am. Listen, I’ve got to go out tonight. Just stay here, okay? Read one of the books or something.”
“I can’t come with you?” He looked at me with puppy dog eyes.
“Not tonight. You’re not ready yet.” Jamie pouted.
“And you can’t stay?”
“I have to hunt. I’ve postponed it long enough. If I leave it any longer… well, it could be bad.”
“If you say so. Have fun!”
The taste of blood was still in my mouth when I returned to the sit.
“Hey Jamie, I’m back!”
There was no reply. I felt a note of concern as I closed in on the shelter.
Jamie was curled up on the mattress shaking. His face was white and his skin clammy.
I ran over to him and hugged him to me.
“Jamie? What’s wrong? Jamie?”
Jamie turned a tear-stained face towards me.
“Damn it, damn it, damn it!” His breathing was fast and shallow.
“Easy Jamie. Deep breaths okay? Deep breaths.” His hands clutched at my shirt, grabbing, grabbing, grabbing.
“I need… Trevor, I need… oh god…”
His sleeve slipped down revealing a bare forearm scored with the pattern of dozens of pin pricks.
“Jamie… what the hell?”
“The drugs… heroine… oh god, I need the drugs Trevor!”
He beat against my chest with his arm.
“Jamie, listen to me. You can get through this okay? You’re still on your original blood, so the toxins are still in your system. The addiction is in your mind, but its only in your mind okay? If you focus, you can get through it.”
“Oh god… I need… I need it so much. Trevor? Don’t let me go okay? Don’t let me go.”
I held him close to me, rocking him slowly, trying to soothe this scared, vulnerable child.
I was still holding him when sleep came to claim us for another day.